Nate Ryan

What drivers said at Michigan

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Joey Logano — winner: What a great execution day from our race car. Obviously very fast, our pit crew was amazing. T.J. Majors spotted his butt off up there.  The race fans sticking around till Monday.  You guys are the best. We love coming up to Michigan. Nothing like bringing a Ford to Victory Lane in their home turf, Roger Penske cars as well.  This is a big win for us. A day like that, you don’t get those days all the time. The best car, the best team. We executed perfectly all the way through.

Kurt Busch — finished second: That’s more than what I was hoping to see for damage. But I had a blast.  Tightest I ever put my belts at the end of a race.  We got enough stage points today, we said hell with it, we don’t need to get anything but the win.  We got second today. Logano’s car was tough.  I really wanted it to go green at the end with Truex.  I was going to push him straight through the 22.  My best shot at it. What a day for our Camaro.  From Chevy and Monster, thank you, guys.  We’ll get it.  It gives us reason to smile and be happy.  We ran up front, were strong in our manufacturer’s backyard, but got second today.

Martin Truex Jr. — finished third:I felt like before that we were going to finish second no matter what. My mindset there was at least we got a shot at it here.  Rack ’em up, have a green‑white‑checkered and see. I don’t know, my second gear was off a little bit all day on restarts.  I was getting Jonesed. Then (Logano) went like a whole car length before the restart zone.  I don’t know how you get away with that. I thought we were supposed to go in the box. Aside from that, great day for Auto Owners Toyota, everybody back at JGR, TRD.  We had a solid race car. Man, you have to be so patient in this racing, it’s really hard. Early in the race I kept getting runs, going underneath guys, getting them in the corner.  If you can’t clear them, you lose two, three, four spots every time. Everybody did a good job.  We had a fill‑in rear tire changer this weekend.  That’s a lot of pressure to come in.  He’s a young kid, did a good job there.  Great job by everyone. Came up a little bit short, but a solid day for us here.

Daniel Suarez — finished fourth: “The car was pretty strong the entire weekend and then again today. We just struggled for whatever reasons on the long runs in the first half of the race. We were able to make some adjustments and come back and I am proud of my guys. We still have some work to do but we are slowly heading into the right direction.”

Kyle Busch finished fifth: “We just did the best we could with what we had. Our Camry was not great, but we just kept working on it all day. We just kept falling back or doing rounds, doing air pressure, everything we could to get improving on it and make it better. I don’t think we ever really made it faster. It was still kind of slow at the end. We saw (Logano) just drive away from us on that restart there, but overall we came with way better than we should have. Let’s go with that. Way better than we should have. … We had some issues in traffic a lot. The further back we got, the worse we got. There on that green-flag stop, the guys did a phenomenal job to jump us there and got us into the top four to be able to position ourselves for the end. That’s what saved our day. We’ll just go on to the next one.”

Brad Keselowski — finished sixth: We just didn’t put it all together today. We were in a really good spot and had the pit road penalty and lost the lap and it took us til about 70 to go to get it back. It is kind of a miracle that we got back up to sixth to be quite honest. We have to execute the entire weekend and we just didn’t today. We were hoping if we could get a yellow, we were 24th with 60-70 laps to go and we got up to sixth. With a yellow we might have had a shot at winning it. I thought the team did a good job with the strategy all day. The cars when they get behind each other they make the car in front of them faster. If you go back 20-30 years ago that was not the case. You would draft but you wouldn’t make the car in front of you faster. Now it seems like when you get up behind somebody you make them faster, too.”

Kevin Harvick finished seventh: “We had a really fast Busch Lite Ford and just made a lot of mistakes today.”

Ryan Newman — finished eighth: “To have our best lap I guess other than maybe one lap to be our fast lap makes me proud of the guys. The Coca-Cola Ford wasn’t the greatest all day. We had some good restarts toward the end but just struggled with the dirty air. I think everybody did. It is obvious if you know anything about racing. It was a good points day for us. We need to get some stage points. Nevertheless I am proud of the guys.”

Alex Bowman — finished 10th:I feel like it raced better than we expected after practice. Obviously, it being cool and overcast was really the best-case scenario for the package. Hopefully, it worked out to be a good race. It looked like a good race from where I was at. It was really hard to pass without help, but we were still able to come through the field more than you were in practice, so that was good. I wish we would have ended up a little better, but we’ll take it and move on.”

Aric Almirola finished 17th: “We had a better Ford Mustang than 17th place today. We got way behind on the restarts and just couldn’t recover in traffic. I’m proud of our No. 10 Ford team for bringing a fast Ford Mustang to Michigan.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 19th: “Our car was a handful today. It seemed like we were battling back all race from the pit-road penalty to the nose damage that caused us to pit multiple times. With this package, it was really hard to pass. We will go back and regroup and get ready for Sonoma.”

Ty Dillon — finished 22nd: “Our Twisted Tea team fought hard all day. We didn’t start the race off with the balance that we wanted, but (crew chief) Matt (Borland) took a big swing at it in the first stage break to tighten up our Camaro ZL1. We had a significantly better race car after that. I maybe could have used a little bit more front grip, but I was really happy with it overall. From there we just needed track position. We were running in the top 20 to start the final stage. But, these restarts can get wild, and I was shuffled back on the restart with 60 laps or so to go. Our Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1 had good speed, so I was able to drive back up and regain some of those spots. We just really needed more cautions to get back to where we had been. Once the field gets strung out after these restarts, it’s hard to make passes. I’m happy with the team’s effort today, though. They worked hard, had clean stops and made great adjustments all day.”

Daniel Hemric finished 24th: “I was fairly happy with how this No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 took off to start the race. I feel like we had the ability to make some good moves. That made me feel more confident than I needed to be, and I hung myself out a couple of times and lost a little bit of track position. Early in the race, we tried to take fuel only and it just killed our balance. After that, we started chipping away at the positions ahead of us and were able to score some points at the end of Stage 2. We were setting ourselves up to have good track position to start Stage 3, but we had an issue with the air hose getting caught on the splitter and that caused us to lose all of our track position. I was able to drive back inside the top 10, which shows the speed we had. When that last caution came out, we got stuck in the dreaded bottom lane, where nobody wanted to be all day, and got shuffled back on the restart. We salvaged a 12th-place finish. We’ll learn from today and come back here later in the year ready for an even better result.”

Austin Dillon finished 26th: “The No. 3 Chevrolet team showed their tenacity this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. After a few struggles in practice, the team completely changed the setup and gave me one of the fastest Chevrolets I’ve ever had for the race. We showed speed in Stages 1 and 2 and even picked up the Stage 2 win. Shortly after the start of Stage 3, we were running strong in the top 10 when another car got a run and clipped the corner of the No. 3 Chevrolet. We ended up tagging the wall and had damage to the right-rear. We made multiple pit stops to repair damage and ended up finishing 26th. It’s definitely disappointing considering how good our car was today, but that’s part of racing. We will start preparing for the road courses and be ready for Sonoma Raceway in two weeks. I want to thank Dow for honoring veterans and active-duty military members this weekend. It’s always special when those guys can ride with us. I just hate we couldn’t get them a win today.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 35th: “Yeah, frustrating for all of us. It just wasn’t our day. (Erik Jones) got loose, and I tried to move down to not hit him, and then I got loose with (Austin Dillon) underneath of me and got into (Jones) and got wrecked. (On the racing) I mean, it is not racing. I am sorry. I am biting my tongue. I have never been penalized for trying to make a pass in my whole life since I was 4 years old. You get a run on somebody, and you can make a complete pass, and by the time you get to the next corner you have been passed by four people. It is really, really frustrating.”

Michigan Cup results, points report

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Joey Logano held off Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. on a restart in overtime to win Monday night at Michigan International Speedway.

The defending series champion scored his second win of the season and the third of his Cup career (and first since 2016) at the 2-mile oval.

Logano, who started on the pole position, led seven times for a race-high 163 of 203 laps.

The Team Penske driver was cruising to the victory when Erik Jones spun with four laps remaining in the scheduled distance, triggering the final restart.

It had been 11 starts since the last win for Logano, who has 23 career victories.

Click here for the race results from Michigan.

Click here for the race report from Michigan.

In the season standings, 16th-ranked Jimmie Johnson has a three-point lead over Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot.

Erik Jones fell three spots to 18th in the points and out of a provisional spot after finishing 31st.

Click here for the points standings after Michigan.

The Furniture Row Racing veteran who stayed in Denver … and in racing

Pete Craik
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INDIANAPOLIS – When Furniture Row Racing closed its doors after the 2018 season, engineer Pete Craik was facing the same dilemma as a few dozen of his co-workers.

How to remain a resident of Colorado but also continue a full-time career in a national racing series?

There were no shortage of offers to stay in the NASCAR Cup Series, including following crew chief Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr. to the No. 19 at Joe Gibbs Racing, but all would have required a relocation to North Carolina.

Having settled in Denver, Craik and his new wife, Abby (whom he met after moving to Colorado four years ago), decided they wanted to stay.

He found empathy in the decision from Pearn (who jrecently discussed his own reservations over leaving Colorado in an interview with The Athletic).

“Cole said, ‘That’s fair enough. We really want you (at Gibbs), but I get it,’” Craik said. “I just decided initially to say unless I can stay here, I’ll figure something else out.”

The Australian managed a good compromise.

Craik, who came to America in 2012 to work in the NTT IndyCar Series for three seasons before his NASCAR stint, joined Ed Carpenter Racing in January.

He still lives in Denver, staying in touch with ECR team members in Indianapolis daily through instant messaging programs. He travels the 18-race IndyCar circuit and visits the shop once a month.

Pete Craik was the race engineer on Ed Carpenter’s sixth-place Chevrolet in the Indianapolis 500.

There’s a parallel to the relationship that Furniture Row Racing had with top engineer Jeff Curtis, who worked remotely from the Charlotte area while the team’s headquarters were in Colorado.

“It’s not like you’re out of the loop at all,” Craik said while standing outside his team’s Gasoline Alley garage stall four days before the Indianapolis 500 last month. “It’s just you’re either in the office here or my office at home.”

Craik is the race engineer on the No. 20, which qualified second and finished sixth in the Indy 500 with Ed Carpenter (who will race the Dallara-Chevrolet this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway).

“I really like this series,” said Craik, who spent three seasons at Andretti Autosport before moving to NASCAR with Furniture Row in 2015. “The cars are good. It’s competitive. I’ve always said that it pains me that it’s not more popular, because I think it’s a great series. It was an easy decision once I spoke to (ECR). It’s a good team, and hopefully I can try to contribute something to that.”

Craik is one of a few Furniture Row Racing veterans who joined IndyCar teams since last year. A few others remained in Denver to work at team owner Barney Visser’s machine shop. But many naturally decamped for North Carolina.

“Honestly I don’t know that many people in Denver anymore because they all moved,” Craik said. “I didn’t have time to go and make friends because we all had each other.”

The camaraderie was a hallmark of the success for Truex’s No. 78, which won the 2017 championship and made the title round in three of four seasons. Craik said a key to the tight-knit group’s success was putting the finishing touches on chassis supplied by other teams (first Richard Childress Racing, then JGR).

“The cakes were baked, and we were putting icing on the cake,” Craik said. “We obviously were heavily sim based and relied on that a lot. We just had a good group. We just wanted to win. I think everybody does, but we were a bit of a ragtag group of guys.

“We had a lot of fun. We just got along well. Everybody was pushing in the same direction. There wasn’t a bad egg amongst them.”

He remains in touch with many of them. Team owner Barney Visser attended a Denver wedding reception in January for Craik (he was married in Australia last December to Abby, who is pictured above during a visit to IMS).

“Barney was putting in a lot of his own money, having health issues and wanted to spend more time with his family, so I get it,” Craik said about Visser’s decision to walk away from NASCAR. “Hey, I wouldn’t want to spend that money myself, so I totally get it.

“It was a good time, but the time’s over. You’re not going to get it back, so there’s no point in looking back on it and wishing it still was.”

The bonds from that team remain strong, though, particularly with Pearn and James Small, a fellow Australian who helped recruit Craik to Furniture Row but went to the No. 19 this season.

“We all still get along,” Craik said. “There’s no hard feelings about it at all. I think everybody’s ended up in good positions otherwise, whether it’s in Colorado not in racing, or in racing. Some people didn’t want to move, but it ended up that way. I feel really fortunate I didn’t have to move, and I get reminded of that by James and Cole every day.

“They text me and are like, ‘Man, you really got a good deal.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I did.’ ”

Indianapolis 500 could chart course for more IndyCar-NASCAR crossover

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INDIANAPOLIS – The first Indianapolis 500 for Dale Earnhardt Jr. will create indelible and vivid memories for a racing lifer who will enjoy an unusually fresh perspective in a long career.

Earnhardt will lead the field to the green flag in a Corvette pace car, hop onto the NBC broadcast for some high-profile commentary and probably duck into the Snake Pit to watch 30,000 grooving to an EDM song or two.

But what will he remember most about the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500?

The emotion and energy that will be coursing through Indianapolis Motor Speedway moments before all of that begins.

“The big takeaway from events like the Kentucky Derby or the Indy 500 is just the energy and it’s not a tangible thing,” Earnhardt recently told NBCSports.com. ” It’s a feeling that you get when the event is about to happen. When you’re walking with the horses to the gate or pushing the cars out onto pit road. And there’s a lot of emotion in that and a feeling that’s amazing and incredible that you can’t describe. That’s probably going to be the coolest part.

“I’m absolutely sure that the feeling I have standing on that grid before the race begins will be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced at a NASCAR race, much less at a Super Bowl, or the Winter Olympics. All these things I’ve experienced over at NBC over the last several months, I think this will be the highlight.”

The 103rd Indianapolis 500, Sunday 11 a.m. on NBC: How to watch

Look for no greater validation of the Indianapolis 500’s standing as auto racing’s marquee event than the endorsement of a retired driver whose surname is synonymous with NASCAR.

But it’s also confirmation that a new era of once unimaginable détente is under way between America’s two biggest racing series – offering the promise of newfound collaboration between two longtime rivals.

The olive branches are sprouting everywhere.

A seven-time NASCAR Cup champion jets to IMS just for a gander at cars whizzing around at speeds roughly 40 mph faster than he’d ever seen at the 2.5-mile oval … the defending Indianapolis 500 champion makes a cameo on Earnhardt’s popular podcast … series executives check out and talk up the competition amid louder rumblings of sharing a race weekend stage at the same track.

IndyCar and NASCAR seem to be together at last as unlikely, but increasingly necessary allies in a motorsports landscape facing constant scrutiny from corporate sponsors seeking greater returns and discriminating fans eager for more entertainment.

“For a motorsports perspective, this is good for all of us,” said IndyCar president Jay Frye, whose background in NASCAR as a team executive makes him a “great friend” to many of his stock-car counterparts such as Mike Helton, Steve Phelps and Steve O’Donnell. “This is an industry. This is something that I think that the more we can do collectively to enhance the industry from a holistic perspective is great.

“So we’re talking about doing more down the road with our biggest events. I think the more we can do together, the better.”

That includes growing support for an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader, which was recently floated on (where else?) the Dale Jr. Download Podcast by NASCAR president Phelps, who traveled Friday to Indy and attended Carb Day with O’Donnell.

It’s been a welcome thaw in what once was one of racing’s biggest cold wars.

“I think we have to get away from, and I think more people are coming to that realization today in motorsports, that I don’t think we can be one against the other,” said Chip Ganassi, who has teams in IndyCar, NASCAR and IMSA. “We shouldn’t be in a circular firing squad. I don’t know what purpose that serves.”

The reaction to Earnhardt being named the pace car driver was a series of effusively welcoming social media posts, namely by reigning Brickyard champion Will Power (another recent Dale Jr. Download guest) and five-time series champion Scott Dixon, who was flummoxed as to why he was consulted on before final approval was given to bring in a 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver to drive an IndyCar pace car (Earnhardt was a last-minute fill-in choice).

“I think some people were a little worried about it, maybe just like it’s this NASCAR guy and all that,” Dixon told NBCSports.com with a chuckle. “And I was like, ‘This is awesome, man!’ And to come to his first Indy 500 and be part of the broadcast and also drive the pace car. It’s going to be his views of this spectacle for the first time in the broadcast. It’s massive.

“I think all around it’s a knockout great idea.”

Said Power, who invited Earnhardt to wedge into the cockpit of his Dallara-Chevrolet during a Thursday stroll through Gasoline Alley: “I think everyone in the paddock is happy Dale’s here, not only commentating but driving the pace car. I was happy to hear that. He’s a great ambassador for motorsports.”

Noting the “genuine” enthusiasm among his peers about having “a legendary name and great personality” with Earnhardt, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden said, “it seems like this whole competition of who’s top of the heap – ‘We’re better! You guys aren’t great! Our series is more competitive.’ — just seems to be going away.

“It was like that for the last 20 to 30 years, and it’s not necessary,” said Newgarden, the 2017 series champion. “We’re two different types of motorsport, but at the end of the day, we’re all motorsport. They’re equally as difficult and just totally different in a lot of respects. We’re racers. We all like each other. And just to see the respect now that we’re both interested in what each other does, I think we should work together.

“We should all respect each other because they’re both top-level motorsports. They’re all very talented drivers and teams that fill both fields. We should have drivers who want to go run in a stock car from IndyCar and have stock car guys who want to run on the IndyCar side.

“To see this ego and competition between the two get set aside, I think that just benefits everybody.”

Earnhardt, whose Indy welcome Thursday also included a two-seater ride with Mario Andretti, still felt more secure in having his choice as pace car driver be approved by IndyCar’s biggest names.

“I’m glad those guys are so excited to have me there,” he said. “We certainly wanted to make sure that was OK with the drivers before we accepted and make sure they’re OK with that. And they all seem to be on board. The IndyCar guys have a real unique perspective on whatever helps their sport, they seem to all be on the same page. They’re uniquely united in doing anything that helps get more eyeballs.”


United isn’t how the relationship between IndyCar and NASCAR would have been described over the past quarter-century since stock cars began racing at the Brickyard 400.

Jeff Gordon won the inaugural race in 1994 after living in nearby Pittsboro while racing open-wheel cars on his way to stardom, but there was still some Indiana-bred animus about having NASCAR at the tradition-steeped track that had been devoted to open-wheel cars for the bulk of its existence since opening in 1909.

Tony Stewart, the three-time Cup champion who was elected Wednesday to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, has admitted he was one of those Hoosier natives who initially blanched at the idea of stock cars at Indy.

NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Jarrett recalled a chillier reception in part because NASCAR was rising as IndyCar – which split into rival series from 1996-2008 that damaged its popularity – was suffering.

“We at NASCAR were on such a huge upswing through the early ‘90s and 2000s that I think that even drag racing and IndyCar were being pushed aside and weren’t used to that,” Jarrett said. “And you don’t like to be the afterthought in anything that you’re doing, and I think maybe they felt that a little bit.”

As NASCAR has wrestled with the challenges of audience retrenchment over the past decades, it’s made for more common ground between two series that have had to deal with trying to enhance their relevance in attracting fans.

“Now that things have leveled out somewhat, and NASCAR been humbled a bit over the last decade, that’s changed sort of everybody’s perception,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “But as a driver, I’ve always been interested and curious about not only IndyCar but other forms of motorsport. You want to go see and look and walk around and check out. You want to be welcomed into that world.

“Even at the height of the rivalry or whatever that was, if Mario Andretti or anyone else would have walked down the middle of the garage area, we would have all been like, ‘Hey, holy cow. Welcome! Incredible to have you here!’ You just know that’s a race car driver. He’s curious about racing. He’s wanting to see what stock cars are and what they’re about. I think the rivalry has probably been more fan driven than anything else.”

Indeed, more IndyCar and NASCAR drivers have built stronger relationships, some driven by sponsors and manufacturer ties, but others have been formed by authentic camaraderie.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has become a buddy of five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, and it’s easy to spot the similarities between two low-key superstars whose accomplishments often go unappreciated

“I talk to Jimmie quite often, and there is a lot more crossover talk” of NASCAR and IndyCar, Dixon said. “It’s hard work right now, and everybody knows that. No one has the captive audience. It’s shifting. Everyone is trying to keep up to speed with the changes.

“If we can do it as a group as opposed to, ‘Oh no, we have a bigger following and we don’t want you to take any of ours’ and all that kind of jazz. It’s nice to see the egos have kind of left, and everyone is trying to get on the same page to help each other. At the heart of it, man, we’re all motorsports fans.”

Last Thursday, Johnson hopped an early morning flight to Indianapolis just so he could spend a few hours watching Indy 500 practice.

“I wanted to see that place packed full of people and feel the energy that I’ve heard about so many times,” said Johnson, who also texts regularly with other IndyCar drivers such as Newgarden.

“He’s just a racer who keeps tabs on everything that’s going on,” Newgarden said of Johnson. “To get perspective from him on someone who has been in the sport and done so much and been so smart and savvy about it, it’s cool to have that line of communication. Jimmie cares about what’s going on outside the NASCAR bubble. He’s got so many friends in the IndyCar paddock. He knows everybody. He’s poking us and wants insider information on the event to learn more about it, which is fantastic.”

While there was an era roughly five decades ago when A.J. Foyt and Andretti, both winners of the Indy 500 and Daytona 500, regularly would switch between disciplines, racing has become more siloed as today’s drivers became much more limited by team commitments.

There are some rare exceptions, such as Kurt Busch running the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 2014, but crossovers generally haven’t been feasible.

Aside from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway, the top IndyCar and NASCAR series race at separate venues, which also has contributed to limiting drivers’ interaction.

“I think we’ve just been removed from each other too much,” Newgarden said. “There were two bubbles created, and the bubbles didn’t cross over. We had that for too long, and now that we’re seeing that bridge be created again, everyone is very capable of getting along and enjoying what each other does. I think the IndyCar guys are very open minded to that.

“Maybe we’re more open minded because we got pushed more to the bottom. Stock car had a bigger rise than IndyCar. Maybe we’re more open minded to it because of where we were 10 years ago or so, but that’s not a knock on anyone. We’re all getting closer. Those bubbles are starting to disappear and we’re putting everyone in the same ecosystem, which is great.”

Jarrett, a three-time Brickyard 400 winner, spent last weekend at IMS, witnessing practice and qualifying for the Indy 500 for the first time. Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud was among those who stopped the 1999 NASCAR champion, who considered it “a little bit of a shock” that he was recognized.

“Everybody was very nice,” Jarrett said. “There’s only a few of the IndyCar drivers that I really know, but a couple that I had never met or talked to or anything actually stopped me walking through the pit lane. So it was pretty cool to see and be a part of it in their world. A lot of people stopped and talked about NASCAR and the success that I had there. Race fans are truly race fans.”


Many drivers point at potential IndyCar-NASCAR weekend doubleheaders as being the best way to expose the racing to fans of both series.

Power and Graham Rahal are among IndyCar stars who believe they can race Saturday night on the Charlotte Roval, followed by a Cup race Sunday.

“We have to all help each other grow,” Rahal said on the most recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast. “Doing these joint events that only certain tracks can do are huge. We have to do it. We have to build our sports together. To do it independently, yeah, we might make ground here or there, but ultimately we’ll never make enough.”

Because NBC Sports Group broadcasts the full IndyCar season and the final 20 races of the NASCAR Cup season, the tracks on its networks seem the ideal places for the most seamless crossover opportunities. (It worked for The Avengers!)

During a motorsports summit in December, NBC Sports executives brought together industry leaders from its various properties (NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and Supercross) to discuss how to be more collaborative.

Frye, the IndyCar president, would be a “huge supporter” of an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader weekend.

“It could be a cool American motorsports extravaganza-kind of weekend,” he said. “We’ve talked about we’d run a Saturday night, and that Cup stays in its normal spot on Sunday. There are a lot of crossovers with manufacturers and amongst teams. We’ve talked about the friendships we have with them.

“I think it would be a game-changer in a good way. It’s not something you do every week. If you did it once or twice a year. You have to do it one time first. See how it goes. There would be certain tracks we would go to that would fit. At end of day, why not try it? It’s good for NBC, good for IndyCar and good for NASCAR.”

It still could be tricky, though, to avoid the “headliner” status and other ways that could result in one series being viewed as inferior.

“What’s been the reservation from both sides working together is the comparison between the two,” Newgarden said. “And that’s what we’ve got to make sure doesn’t happen. It’s not a competition of which car is quicker. Or which car is more difficult.

“They are different forms of racing. (A stock car) weighs twice as much. The horsepower levels are different. It’s a different art. We’re not there to compare what car is fastest. That’s not what it’s all about, so I think that’s where some of the reservation comes in doing the doubleheader, but I’d love to see it. If anyone is going to win in that situation, it’s going to be the fans.”

Given that possible outcome, perhaps it’s apropos that the latest example of NASCAR-IndyCar harmony will be symbolically led by Earnhardt, who holds sway over more fans than the 33 drivers combined who will be trailing him around the Brickyard at 12:45 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC.

It’ll be quite a sight even for a racer who has seen nearly everything.

“When you look in that rear-view mirror and you don’t see stock cars,” Earnhardt said. “But you see these wild, exotic open wheel Indy cars.

“It’s going to blow my mind.”

Nate Ryan’s ballot for 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class

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Nate Ryan cast a ballot Wednesday for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as NBC Sports’ digital representative.

It’s the 11th consecutive year of voting for Ryan, who is one of 59 members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel (including one online vote determined by fans; two voters, Ricky Rudd and Waddell Wilson, recused themselves because they were on the ballot).

A maximum of five votes may be cast from a list of 20 nominees (this was the first year in which Ryan voted for fewer than five)

His ballot for the 11th class (followed by his ballot for each of the preceding 10 years, which included six at USA TODAY Sports):

  1. Tony Stewart: Three Cup championships, 49 victories and two Brickyard 400s (plus an IndyCar championship) are a testament to his boundless talent, but “Smoke” also has left a mark as an alluring and highly quotable superstar and a respected team owner. His irascible personality and tenacious grit provided some of NASCAR’s best moments of the past two decades.
  2. Buddy Baker: The winner of the 1980 Daytona 500 and 1970 Southern 500 was one of NASCAR’s home run hitters, counting several major wins among his 19 career victories on the premier circuit. One of NASCAR’s greatest ambassadors Baker also became a beloved broadcaster on TV and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
  3. Waddell Wilson: Perhaps the greatest across-the-board garage resume on this year’s ballot with three championships and 109 victories as an engine builder and 19 wins (including three Daytona 500s) as a crew chief.
  4. Joe Gibbs: Nine NASCAR titles (four in Cup; five in Xfinity) and his four-car team remains the class of the premier circuit. Deserves to be elected in the wake of contemporaries Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Jack Roush and Roger Penske being elected the last few years.

2020 Landmark Award: Ralph Seagraves

Ryan’s previous NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots:

2010: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bill France Jr.

2011: Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty

2012: Waltrip, Yarborough, Dale Inman, Raymond Parks, Curtis Turner

2013: Fireball Roberts, Turner, Fred Lorenzen, Herb Thomas, Tim Flock

2014: Roberts, Turner, Lorenzen, Flock, Joe Weatherly

2015: Lorenzen, Turner, Weatherly, O. Bruton Smith, Rick Hendrick

2016: Turner, Smith, Hendrick, Ray Evernham, Bobby Isaac

2017: Hendrick, Evernham, Benny Parsons, Parks, Red Byron

2018: Evernham, Byron, Robert Yates, Alan Kulwicki, Buddy Baker

2019: Jeff Gordon, Kulwicki, Baker, Davey Allison, Jack Roush

2020: Tony Stewart, Baker, Waddell Wilson, Joe Gibbs

LANDMARK

2015: Raymond Parks

2016: Raymond Parks

2017: Raymond Parks

2018: Ralph Seagraves

2019: Jim Hunter